I was asked some time ago about grief after placement. More specifically, I was asked what changed for me. What is it that helped me get past the worst of the pain, helped me to turn around, to feel happy again. I've been thinking about it for a while. I wasn't sure I wanted to answer, because it is a story that is meaningful to me personally but that might sound kind of ridiculous when written out. But I thought I'd give it a try anyway, in the hope that maybe someone will read it who is hurting, and I can help them hurt a little less.
The days right after placement were absolute hell for me. To say that I was unhappy would be an understatement of epic proportions. After a week or so, and after the first visit, things got a little easier, but I certainly wouldn't say life got a lot easier after that. It didn't. It sucked less. As time passed, pain started to seep away little by little like a slow leak.
And then, a few months after placement, I hit a standstill. I wasn't as depressed as I'd been immediately post-placement, but I didn't seem to be getting any happier, either. My hike back up the hill of mental health hit a roadblock. No matter what I did or how hard I tried, I couldn't seem to get more than halfway up said metaphorical hill.
It was frustrating, and with that frustration came a number of other little things that acted as a mini landslide, which succeeded in knocking me back down the hill a few feet. I managed to climb back up to the peak I'd reached previously, but nothing in heaven or earth worked to get me to the top of that darned hill. I was ready to give up and pitch a tent.
I grew more and more frustrated and when the opportunity arose to do a school outreach presentation I nearly didn't take it. How, I thought, was I supposed to tell class after class of teenagers that adoption had made me happy when I didn't feel happy at all? I was beginning to think I was never going to be really happy ever again.
But something inside of me wouldn't let me say no, and so off I went, with a caseworker or two and a birth mom who had placed nearly 8 years ago. The birth mom, N, was someone whose story I'd heard before on more than one occasion and I liked and respected her. Since placement, N had married and had three children, and her story gave me hope for my own future. In my crabbiness, I think I'd have snapped at any other birth mom I might have presented with but for some reason I didn't mind N.
I told my story first, and if I was slightly less enthusiastic than normal no one noticed or at the very least no one said anything. After I finished, I gave a small smile and took my seat as N told her story.
It was the same story I'd heard her tell many times before, and I found myself drifting a bit. Then she got to the end. She told the kids that she had worried that the pain of placement would ruin her forever, that it would break her, and she would be forever broken.
Then N said three words I'm sure I must have heard before: "I'm not broken."
Such small words, but she said them with such force, such conviction that I felt them in my soul. I knew N wasn't just repeating a phrase she'd heart before. She was stating the absolute, irrefutable truth. She was NOT broken.
I can't explain it, but those three words changed something in me that day. They grew both roots in my heart and wings to carry them to my mind. They echoed in my head for hours. "I'm not broken."
Was I broken? I didn't want to be. I desperately didn't want to be. It felt wrong to me that I should go through so much pain and heartache and not come through it a stronger, better person. Being broken seemed wrong.
I decided something important that day. I decided that no matter how long it took me to climb that dratted hill, I would climb it. I would not give up, because I was not broken either.
The day N said those words - "I'm not broken" - was a turning point in my grief. I don't think it was until she said them that I realized I wasn't broken, either. I could be, if I so chose, but I didn't have to be broken, not for a second, if I didn't want it. I decided I didn't want it.
That's not to say that my pain is all gone or that there are no hard days and no tears. Certainly there are hard days! Certainly I cry! I still grieve a little. I think I'm entitled to; after all, my heart was broken. My heart was broken. But I was not.
My Father in Heaven asked me to exercise more faith than I thought I possessed and place my precious daughter with two people I had never met. He gave me the strength to do it. He saw me through the hard times afterward. I am not broken. He fixed me. I am whole.